Computer graphic of future I-75 HOT Lanes
Bert Brantley, Deputy Exec. Dir. of State Road and Tollway authority
HOT Lanes on I-85 north of Atlanta
Georgia 400 toll booth
ATLANTA -- Six months before the closing of the toll booths on Georgia 400 and with only one other toll road operating, the State Road and Tollway Authority has signed a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract with a public relations company.
Some drivers are probably scratching their heads and asking why.
The authority told 11Alive News they need the PR firm to let us know about extending the I-85 HOT lanes, which opened in October of 2011, and about two new HOT lane projects coming in the next few years on I-75 north and south of metro Atlanta.
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"There's a constant need to communicate with our customers and also those who aren't customers yet about the benefits of toll lanes," said Bert Brantley, deputy executive director of the authority.
On Monday he told 11Alive News much of that public relations work will go for advertising and information about when new toll lanes are coming, how they will work and how to sign up for the Peach Pass program needed to use them.
So how much money are we talking?
Brantley said the authority has spent about $3 million on PR for the existing I-85 HOT lanes.
While no firm number has been set, he estimates possibly close to $10 million for the new PR contracts over the next 5 years.
Brantley said the money comes from tolls and money budgeted for those projects.
When we asked why not use existing government staffers, he said it's cheaper to hire outside professionals on temporary contracts.
"The real benefit to us is we get the expertise they bring, but we don't have to hire them in-house, pay 'em a salary with benefits and all those kind of things; we can just pay them as we need them," he added.
The new contract has been awarded to the Porter Novelli firm, which will be assisted by The Creative Outhouse marketing firm.
Brantley pointed out they have done work for the Clean Air Campaign, Georgia DOT and MARTA.